Los Angeles

Charlie Nothing

Eugenia Butler Gallery

To paraphrase Lord Chesterton, young men should beware any gallery enterprise which requires the presence of a tape recorder. Charlie Nothing has one present to dispense the sounds of his installation and opening; it, and other process-y professional display devices, belie Nothing’s seeming role as the penultimate flower child. The general tone of the exhibition celebrates purity of soul, implying (at least to me) that one’s personal vibes, spread over a lot of therapeutic busywork, will carry the day (in fact, funkiness is construed by the show as an ethical, as well as esthetic, virtue; the trouble is, that route requires a professional amateur, like Garabedian, to pull it off). The exhibition consists of paintings-in-the-crate-on-the-wall, some handmade manuscripts, some faux-naïf drawings, and, as if to shore up Nothing’s shortcomings as a painter (and to reinforce the idea that this is a show of a person, not artwork), some assorted moojies. The pictures are still in the soul-carpentered packing boxes, garnished with pine needles, and, if I read the thing right, are meant to dazzle us with the marvelous personal intensity and delightful insouciance of the artist; that is to say there are lots of concentric psychedelic zigzags, primitive-schematic silhouettes (man, elephant, alligator), and an occasional I - can’t - help - telling - the - truth - even - though - it - may - go - against - your - silly - rules - inscription like “I wanted to paint a tree here, but the tree died.” The surface is arbitrarily overlayed with white-line curly-Q’s and leaves. I find it unrelievedly boring and calculated enough to be offensive; for one thing, Nothing fills bright colors into his little mazes with all the sensitivity of a goodnight kiss from Jack the Ripper (the same wacky impulse which puts out the idea in the form of a cartoon is unable to supply the rational eyeballing which color decisions require).

Peter Plagens